Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Summer Experiments: Testing The Elemental Iron Content In Cereal

Research Question:

-How much elemental iron (iron filings) can be found in 50ml. of cereal?


-I expect that the bran and wheat based cereals will have more iron that the bleached grain and sugary cereals.

Background Research:

Why Should We Care About Iron?

Iron is actually one of the most important minerals in our body. Iron contains protein that is absorbed into the bloodstream and passed down to the bodies organs. Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen to our lungs and is necessary for the creation of hemoglobin in red blood cells. A lack of iron can have many unpleasant effects including; anemia, irritability, headaches and a lack of energy.

Why Would Cereal Companies Add Iron Filings?

Large amounts of iron are found in green vegetables (particularly spinach and broccoli) and red meats. Most people (especially small children) would rather not eat huge amounts of green vegetables unless they have to, and our health-savvy culture usually stays away from large amounts of red meat because of the saturated fat content; these circumstances leave our bodies hungry for iron. Cereal (when properly advertised) boasts about containing vitamins and minerals......therefore the consumer, when eating this particular cereal, can stray from red meats and vegetables without losing out on essential vitamins.


1) Gain Materials

-Magnetic Stirrer

-Graduated Cylinder

-250ml. Beaker

-A Gallon (or so) of Distilled Water

-4 Sheets of Filter Paper

-4 Types of Cereal

-Frosted Mini-Wheats

-Raisin Bran

-Rice Crispies


-4 Small Ziplock Baggies

-Hammer (or some type of smashing device)

2) Pour the cereal into a baggie.

-1 cereal per baggie only!

3) Smash the cereal with a hammer (or other smashing device) until it will not become any smaller.

4) Measure out 50ml of a cereal into the graduated cylinder and pour into the beaker.

5) Pour distilled water into the beaker until the cereal mixture has a baby food like texture (beyond pasty and not yet milky).

-The amount the water will be different for each cereal because the cereals all have different consistencies.

6) Place the magnet (it should come with the magnetic sitter....see picture) into the cereal-water mixture and place on the magnetic stirrer.

7) Turn the magnetic stirrer on up to 1100 R.P.M.

-Make sure that the heat is NOT on.

-After the magnetic stirrer has been on for a minute look at the bottom of the beaker. If you cannot see mixture moving or hear the magnet you need to add

more water.

8) Leave the magnetic stirrer on for 45 minutes.

9) During the 45 minutes weigh a piece of filter paper and record the weight.

10) After the allotted time, turn off the magnetic stirrer and remove the magnet (you may want to use tongs to remove the magnet).

11) Immediately place the magnet onto the weighed piece of filter paper. Wash the magnet over the filter paper with distilled water.

-The washing must be done slowly or the water will run over the filter paper instead of through the filter paper.

12) Place the filter paper (with the magnet on top) onto a paper towel and leave in a dry place overnight.

13)After the filter paper has dried, remove the magnet and weigh the filter paper. Record the measurement.

14) Repeat steps 4-13 with each different type of cereal.

*Most of this procedure is borrowed from Marty Burke (see bibliography at end of page).

Procedure- General Comments:

-This procedure works because the magnet in the magnetic stirrer attracts the iron filings which are in the cereal. When I remove the magnet from the cereal/water solution the iron is attached, and removed by rinsing the magnet, resulting in a happy experiment that works.

-Distilled water is used (and must be used) because tap water is full of chemicals......including iron. If tap water is used the results of the experiment will be wrong.

A) No changes were made to the above procedure.

B) Hints:

-When washing the magnet over the filter paper - have one person hold the paper while another washes the magnet.

- To get the magnet moving (if it has stopped more than 10 minutes into the experiment), use a glass stirring rod to mix the top or side of the mixture. This

way the magnet will begin to move without being touched by the stirring rod.

C) No trials were rejected unless a part of the procedure was blatantly ignored.

-I once forgot to weight the filter paper, that was the only trial that was rejected.



Type of Cereal Grams of Elemental Iron
Frosted Mini Wheats .031
Raisin Bran .039
Rice Crispies .025
Cherrios .01


A) The average amount of cereal in all of the cereals was .027 grams.

B) The average calculation was done by adding together all of the scores and dividing by four. The standard deviation calculation was done by a computer program.


A) According to the experiments, Raisin Bran has the largest amount of elemental iron out of the four cereals tested. In order of most to least amounts of iron, the other cereals ranked; Frosted Mini-Wheats, Rice Crispies and Cheerios.

B) This experiment not only shows that trying to find the amount of iron filings in cereal is testable, but also that Raisin Bran has more iron that Frosted-Mini Wheats, Rice Crispies and Cheerios.

Evaluation of Results:

A) To a certain degree, our information is precise: similar results were gained by the different participating laboratories. If one cereal had had significantly more or less iron content than the others, I would think that I had done something wrong and redo that particular trial.

B) Assumptions made during the procedure include; the consistency of the cereal would not ultimately effect the out come of the experiment, that all of the iron would wash off the magnet and fall onto the filter paper and that all of the excess cereal would disintegrate through the filter paper or be washed off while rinsing.


A) Limitations to my findings include; the repetition of this experiment which shows my results incorrect, if some of the iron was washed off the filter paper, if some of the cereal was stuck onto the filter paper and never washed off, if I had left the magnetic stirrer on for more than the allotted amount of time, or if some of the iron from a previous experiment had not been washed off of the magnet and was passed down to a different cereal measurement.

B) The most effective way to improve this procedure would be to test each cereal more than once, and have the experiment being done by two or more people during the same time period. This would help the 'experimenter' figure out how precise and accurate his/her experiment was, therefore making it more valid than the one at hand. The procedure could also be improved by washing the cereal/water solution through a strainer, then through a coffee filter instead of piece of filter paper.

C) Other research questions related to testing the amount of iron filings include: How much iron is contained in foods besides cereal? How do different brands compare in their respective amounts of iron filings? What kind of iron is contained in iron vitamins?.


-, copyright by The Vegetarian Resource Group, 1996-2000, last updated May 16th. 2001.

-, copyright by Satyam Infoway LTD., 1995-2000.


-World Book Millennium Encyclopedia (Volume 10, pg. 435), copyright by World Book Inc., 2000, Chicago, USA.

Special Thanks:

NRC Lab, Chem Students @ Georgia Southern, Statesboro & Physics Lab Students @ Mercer, Macon


1 comment:

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